03.09.07

Congressmen Schiff and Flake Troubled By PATRIOT Act Abuse

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who represents California’s 29th District, and Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, who represents Arizona’s 6th District, were deeply troubled by reports of abuse of PATRIOT Act powers by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  An audit by the Justice Department found that the FBI improperly used powers afforded to them by the PATRIOT Act to acquire personal information on U.S. citizens. 

“The abuses of authority we learned of today are alarming and must be addressed,” said Schiff.  “It was most disturbing to learn that there were many cases in which federal agents demanded records and made assurances that grand jury subpoenas were forthcoming – when none was later provided or even contemplated.  I commend House Judiciary Committee Chairman Conyers for announcing his intention to immediately schedule hearings on this issue so that Congress can probe these abuses and determine what legislative response is necessary.”

“Obviously, this news is very troubling,” said Flake.  “Congressional action will likely be necessary, but we need to investigate further before we determine an appropriate course.”

Reps. Schiff and Flake were the only two members who attended a briefing by the FBI on the details that were the subject of the report released today by the Justice Department's Inspector General.  The damaging report found systemic failures in the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) and repeated errors in the FBI's ability to follow the strict guidelines within the Patriot Act.

Most disturbingly, the report identifies over 700 occasions in which the FBI circumvented the requirements of national security letter authorities and internal FBI policy by using a tool known as "exigent letters," signed by personnel not authorized to sign NSLs, to immediately obtain information from telecommunications companies. These letters -- requesting information on approximately 3,000 different telephone numbers -- falsely indicated that grand jury subpoenas had been requested and many of these letters were not issued in exigent circumstances.

Congressmen Flake and Schiff have introduced the NSA Oversight Act, a bipartisan measure that will modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to respond to changes in technology and new threats.